The MLBA Board of Directors is comprised of an all-volunteer Board. Each Board member is elected by the MLBA membership to serve a two-year term. The Board is dedicated to promoting the MLBA’s mission and vision to the Minnesota legal community. Board Members are responsible for actively participating in committee work, fundraising for the organization, and building collegial and collaborative relationships with LGBTQ+ and allied organizations to promote LGBTQ+ equality within Minnesota’s legal profession.
The Board is governed by the Executive Committee: the Chair (or Co-Chairs), the Secretary, and the Treasurer.
- Charlie Albin Gustafson, Co-Chair
- Ryan Petty, Co-Chair
- Amanda Hawthorne, Treasurer
- Mara Sybesma, Secretary
- Lisa Beane
- Mike Dittberner
- Catlin Hedeman
- Charlie Johnson
- Tara Kalar
- Olivia Levinson
- Lee Novelli
- Shaun Parks
- Christian Sande
- Nicole Schladt
- Daniel Wassim
- Trevor Warzecha
- Nicholas Williams
- Joni Thome
Board Member Bios
Charlie Albin Gustafson, Co-Chair
Charlie (they/them/theirs) serves as a judicial law clerk to Referee Naomi S. Garfinkel in the Family Court Division of Minnesota’s Fourth Judicial District. Charlie has also served as a law clerk to Judge David L. Piper, Referee Jason T. Hutchison, and Judge Nelson L. Peralta. Charlie received their J.D. with a certificate in Conflict Resolution Theory and Practice from Mitchell Hamline School of Law in 2020. Prior to law school, Charlie obtained a B.A. in Writing and a minor in LGBTQ+ studies from the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2016. Charlie has been a member of the MLBA board since 2019.
Ryan Petty, Co-Chair
Ryan is an associate at Fish & Richardson, where he represents clients in complex patent litigation. He also served as a law clerk to Justice Natalie E. Hudson and Justice Margaret H. Chutich on the Minnesota Supreme Court. Ryan received his JD from Harvard Law School in 2019. Outside of work, he enjoys playing board games and exploring Minnesota with his dog Loki.
Amanda Hawthorne, Treasurer
Amanda is an Associate Attorney at Bevilacqua PLLC, where she focuses on corporate and securities law. She previously worked on statutory law for Westlaw and print products as an Attorney Editor at Thomson Reuters and was the Co-Chair of TR’s Pro Bono Connection Committee and an active member of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee. Before attending the University of Wisconsin Law School, she worked as an OB/GYN clinical research assistant for the Medical College of Wisconsin. Outside of work and volunteering, she enjoys crafting, video games, and reading. Amanda joined the board in 2020.
Mara Sybesma, Secretary
Mara serves as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Jacob Kraus in Minnesota’s Second Judicial District. She received her J.D. from the University of Minnesota in 2022, where she served on the board of the UMN OutLaw student organization, and received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2019. She has previously volunteered with VLN’s LGBTQ+ Community Legal Clinic, helping transgender clients pursue name changes and correct documents.
Michael Dittberner has practiced family law since 1984, and is a shareholder in the firm Linder, Dittberner & McSweeney, Ltd., in Edina, Minnesota. Mr. Dittberner received his bachelor’s degree, cum laude, from Gustavus Adolphus College in 1981, and received his JD decree, cum laude, from William Mitchell College of Law in 1984. He was admitted to the Minnesota bar in 1984.
Mr. Dittberner is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) and has served AAML’s Minnesota Chapter (AAML-MN) as the Chair of its Legislative Committee since 2002. He has served on AAML-MN’s Board of Managers and currently serves on their Board of Examiners. He is also a member and past board member of the Minnesota Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Court (AFCC) and he has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Lavender Bar Association since 2018. He has been a member of the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Family Law Section since 1987 and served as Chair of the Family Law Section in 1995 and 1996. In addition, he has served the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Family Law Section as a member and co-chair of its Amicus Committee. He is a regular lecturer and author of continuing legal education programs. He supervises and helps present the Case Law Update at Minnesota CLE’s Annual Family Law Institute. For many years, Mr. Dittberner has been recognized in the Super Lawyers list, and has been recognized as one of the top 100 lawyers in Minnesota. He is also listed in The Best Lawyers in America. Mr. Dittberner has been certified as a family law trial advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. In 2012 Mr. Dittberner was designated as a distinguished member of the Family Law Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association. In 2016, Mr. Dittberner was the recipient of the Professionalism Award from the Family Law Section of the Hennepin County Bar Association.
Lisa Beane is senior associate general counsel in the University of Minnesota Office of the General Counsel. She represents the University in civil litigation matters in state and federal courts and manages internal investigations. Lisa previously was an associate at Jones Day and at Robins Kaplan LLP, and she worked as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Wilhelmina M. Wright of the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota and for the Minnesota Supreme Court. Lisa also serves on the board of the Minnesota Women Lawyers Foundation and is a First Judicial District attorney member of the Commission on Judicial Selection.
Catlin is a 3L at the University of Minnesota Law School, and she graduated from Occidental College in 2021. Thus far in law school, she has volunteered for the Advocates for Human Rights, participated in UMN’s Housing Law Clinic, and worked as a law clerk at Chestnut Cambronne PA in Minneapolis.
Tara Kalar is a Senior Human Services Judge at the Minnesota Department of Human Services, an adjunct professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, and a Senior Associate at the Washington law firm Thompson Guildner and Associates. She has experience in the legal offices of the Minnesota Department of Revenue, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and the Minnesota Department of Human Services. She is a recipient of the Alice Musabende Award awarded by World Without Genocide for years of commitment to human rights and the 2016 State Government Innovation Award and the Governor’s Award for Continuous Improvement in State Government. She volunteers for the FBI Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, the ACLU, and World Without Genocide. In cooperation with World Without Genocide, she pioneered a human rights course that focuses on transgender human rights at Mitchell Hamline School of Law. She is dedicated to advancing human rights globally and locally.
Olivia Levinson (she/her) is an Assistant County Attorney at the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office with a practice in Criminal Prosecution. Prior to joining the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, Olivia was a law clerk for the Honorable Paul Scoggin in Minnesota’s Fourth Judicial District. Olivia graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School, cum laude, in 2021. In law school, Olivia served as a student director of the Consumer Protection Clinic, legal writing student instructor, Senior Articles Editor of the Minnesota Law Review, and member of the Thurgood Marshall competition moot court team. Olivia helped draft new bylaws to UMN’s OutLaw group while serving as an OutLaw board member. As the Communications Director for UMN’s Law Council, Olivia led a campaign to establish additional gender-neutral restrooms at the law school. Prior to law school, Olivia attended New College of Florida and served on the Board of Directors of the Sarasota, Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Lee is the owner of Novelli Law Office and practices exclusively in family law. Through her years of practice, she has focused her practice on helping her clients resolve complex issues including complicated marital estates, division of businesses, non-marital tracings, executive compensation valuation, spousal maintenance, and custody and parenting time. Lee also has extensive experience with family law appeals and has expanded her practice to include acting as a Parenting Consultant. For many years Lee has been recognized in the Super Lawyers list, and has been recognized as one of the top women attorneys in Minnesota.
Charlie is a 3L at the University of Minnesota Law School, where he serves as Legal Services Director of UMN OutLaw and as a Legal Writing Student Instructor. He is also passionate about disability rights and mental health advocacy. Charlie received his B.A. in Sociology from Grinnell College in 2017 and will receive his J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2021.
Shaun is in-house counsel at Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. in its Chief Administrative Office and International Operations Section working primarily to support the bank’s various lines of business with their third party services. Prior to this role, Shaun practiced employment law and litigation. He is a 2012 graduate of the University of St. Thomas School of law. Outside of work, Shaun enjoys ultimate frisbee, board games, and time at the lake. Shaun lives in West Bloomington with his husband Jay and dog Isla.
Judge Christian Sande (he/him/his) is a District Court Judge in Hennepin County. He was appointed by Governor Mark Dayton in 2016 and elected in 2018. He was assigned to Criminal Court from 2016 to 2017 and Family Court from 2017 to August 2020. In August 2020, he is assigned to Civil Court with a suburban criminal court rotation. He also serves on the Court’s Facilities and Security Committee and was a member of the State Canvassing Board for the 2020 Presidential Primary. Prior to becoming a judge, he was in private practice at his own law firm and at Lockridge Grindal Nauen PLLP, where he worked primarily in class action antitrust litigation, securities fraud arbitration, and election law. He was a member of the Minnesota Campaign Finance & Public Disclosure Board from 2013 to 2016, and has been a GED tutor at the Open Door Learning Center and a volunteer judge for the Minnesota State Bar Association High School Mock Trial program. He is a graduate of Hamline University and William Mitchell College of Law.
Nicole J. Schladt is an Associate Attorney in the Civil Rights and Impact Litigation practice group at Nichols Kaster, PLLP. In this role, Nicole tackles social injustices and advocates for employees, students, prisoners, and other marginalized individuals in complex class and collective action lawsuits. She assists clients with claims of discrimination, sex harassment, labor trafficking, denial of benefits, and other civil rights violations. Nicole also dedicates her time to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal field through her involvement in Nichols Kaster’s DEI Committee, as well as the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee of the Minnesota State Bar Association’s New Lawyers Section.
Prior to joining Nichols Kaster, Nicole served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Susan M. Robiner in Minnesota’s Fourth Judicial District. Nicole received her J.D. from Emory University School of Law in Atlanta, Georgia. During her time in law school, Nicole co-founded Emory LGBTQ Legal Services (ELLS), an organization created to provide pro bono legal assistance to members of Atlanta’s queer community. Her work with ELLS led to her receiving the 2018 Marion Luther Brittain Award, Emory University’s highest student honor, as well as the 2018 National LGBT Bar Association Student Leadership Award.
Before law school, Nicole earned degrees from the University of Cambridge and the University of Kentucky.
Daniel Wassim is a judicial law clerk on the Minnesota Supreme Court. He will join Dorsey & Whitney this fall as an associate. He graduated in 2022 from Georgetown Law, where he served as Vice President of Georgetown’s OutLaw chapter. Daniel is also a member of the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Access to Justice Committee. In his free time, Daniel enjoys exploring the Twin Cities food scene, playing with his Boston Terrier puppy, and singing with One Voice Mixed Chorus.
Nicholas (he/him/his) is an associate at Fox Rothschild, where he assists clients with a wide range of real estate matters. Prior to joining Fox, Nicholas was assistant vice president and associate corporate counsel at U.S. Bank. While earning his law degree from the University of Minnesota School of Law, Nicholas worked as a law clerk for a regional construction law firm, held legal externships at Target Corporation and Regis Corporation, represented clients as a Certified Student Attorney in Housing Law and Business Law Clinics, and was a research assistant to Professor Judith T. Younger. Additionally, he served on the board for the UMN chapter of OutLaw, and as a class representative on the school’s Law Council. Before law school Nicholas earned his B.A. from the University of Tennessee where he graduated summa cum laude. More information about Nicholas is available at: https://www.foxrothschild.com/nicholas-williams.